The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has issued an apology to Iditarod musher Paige Drobny, whose 5-year-old dog Dorado died March 15 during an overnight storm after being dropped at the Unalakleet checkpoint. PETA had initially called for the Nome district attorney to file cruelty charges against both race organizers and Drobny, but the threat of a lawsuit from Drobny prompted the apology from the group. Still, in an email to media Saturday, Drobny called the recent apology a "weak effort."
Dorado died from asphyxiation when left outside overnight in Unalakleet, one of 30 dogs left outside that night after several days of bad weather hindered efforts to fly out the 130 dropped dogs that accumulated at the village on the western Alaska coast. Dorado was buried under blowing snow after last being checked around 3 a.m., and wasn't discovered until about 8:30 that morning. It was the first dog death during the Iditarod in four years.
In the wake of Dorado's death, the Iditarod announced plans to improve sheltered areas for dropped dogs in Unalakleet, one of the larger checkpoints along the trail.
In the statement issued Friday, PETA apologized for suggesting that Drobny was somehow responsible for Dorado's death after she left the dog in the care of race veterinarians on March 11 before continuing on to Nome:
"PETA has learned that Ms. Drobny had no way of knowing that a sudden storm was coming to the checkpoint area and is not culpable for Dorado's death. PETA apologizes for suggesting that she was. PETA thanks Ms. Drobny for asking the Iditarod to make changes so as to supply shelter for all dogs dropped off at collection points along the race route in the future and is pleased that the Iditarod has agreed."
Drobny, however, took issue with the statement, which included further calls from PETA to end the Iditarod and, following the apology, made note of the number of dogs that have died in the race since 2005.
"We are bothered by the obvious attempt to bury this release in a larger piece of PETA propaganda, released on the weekend," Drobny said in her email. "We are considering our options in light of this weak effort."